Environmental groups staged a protest Monday morning outside the main office of San Miguel Corporation (SMC) in Ortigas, Mandaluyong City to urge the conglomerate to shut down its coal power plants and shift to renewable energy sources.
The protesters, which numbered around 100, included residents of communities affected by coal use.
Among them were locals from Limay, Bataan, where SMC operates a coal-fired power plant and a fuel refinery. They said exposure to coal ash emissions and waste from these plants have caused skin and respiratory ailments on the residents.
The rally featured a man covered in soot called a "coal demon" and people in face masks chained to his body. The "demon," organizers said, stood for how fossil fuel industries controlled people's lives and the economy for profit.
The protesters also decried the long-term impacts in climate change of the continuing burning of fossil fuels .
They said San Miguel Corp. should begin the shift to renewable energy since it has the resources.
"We hope that with public pressure from the organizations and the communities, we hope to let corporations with investments in coal know that it is an industry losing money. If they don't break free from coal today, they might get left behind in the future," said Reuben Muni of Greenpeace, one of the organizers.
The groups that participated in the protest plan to hold similar mobilizations in other areas of the Philippines as part of their initiative against "dirty energy".
No representative of San Miguel came out to meet the protest, which lasted for around half an hour.
In January, SMC Chairman Ramon Ang dismissed reports connecting the ash emissions to the residents' sicknesses. SMC has also conducted medical missions to treat the sufferers.
The 140-megawatt plant of the Petron Bataan Fuel Refinery has been operating in the area for years. The 300-megawatt power plant of SMC Consolidated Power Corporation has yet to be officially opened this May, but has been conducting test runs in months leading to the opening.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources earlier demanded the power plants in Limay to move their ash dumps farther from residential areas.
But the plants continue to operate as the DENR and the residents still await the results of lab tests that will determine the cause of the locals' ailments.